One of my most romantic memories from last year is sitting on an old wooden boat cuddled up to my boyfriend on a cold December night, wrapped up in a warm blanket and with a hot drink in hand, while we sail by the stately canal houses and underneath the bridges in search of the next work of light art. The occasion was Illuminade 2016, Amsterdam’s annual light festival featuring dozens of installations from Dutch and international artists, and we loved the experience so much that we simply had to repeat it this year.
And so this weekend we booked the tickets for the same open boat, dressed up warmly and made our way to the Central Station, from which the tour departs. But, alas, there was something that we hadn’t taken into account: rain. It started when we were standing in line to board the boat and grew stronger as the tour departed. We tried to cover ourselves with the blankets, but by the time the showers stopped about midway through the journey, everyone on the boat was soaking wet.
And yet we felt happy and excited. Don’t get me wrong – I would have naturally preferred to stay warm and dry, and we would have certainly been able to take more pictures had the lens not kept fogging up, but there was something decidedly exciting about the setting. It felt like an adventure.
Moreover, the weather fit together nicely with this year’s theme, existential. Judging by social media, a crowd favourite this year seems to be Whole hole (see the photo above), by Paul Vendel and Sandra de Wolf. The installation is made up of hundreds of LED strips that have been attached to a bridge, creating an illuminated tunnel through which the boats sail and which is described as a “journey of existence, which begins and ends with a movement towards light”. Read on to discover some of our other favourites.
The “illuminated iceberg” seen in the photo above is Infinita by Balmond Studio. Next to it you can see the lights of Amsterdam’s central library, which by the way has some of the best views over the city (link!).
In this photo you can see not one, but two light installations at once. The first is Floating on a thousand memories, a moving work of art from Lighting Design Academy. The little lights on the side of canal are reflected by the water, creating a candle-light effect to remind us of the passage of time. The second is the red line running above the canal; it’s Ai Weiwei’s thinline, stretching for 6.5km around the city.
The life of a slime mold, pictured above, was one of my personal favourites at this year’s Amsterdam Light Festival. Our captain told us that the artist, Nicole Banowetz, transported the colour-changing installation in her suitcase all the way from Denver – despite its large size, the sculpture is very light.
Last but not least, can you guess what the orange installation in the picture above represents? I couldn’t either, despite having admired it quite a few times from an airplane: it’s the city of Amsterdam, seen from above. The sculpture is called City Gazing, and it was created by Justus Bruns and Mingus Vogel.
This was just a small selection of the interesting, inspiring and quirky works of art presented at this year’s Amsterdam Light Festival. If you want to see it for yourself, you can either book a place on one of the canal boats (despite the unpredictable weather, I would recommend an open-top one) or explore the installation on foot or on bike. The festival is on until the end of January, and takes place all over central Amsterdam.
What was your favourite installation out out of the ones listed in this post?